Calibrate Like a Pro
Serious videophiles may want to go further, and invest in either a professional calibration from a video consultant (most home-theater stores can provide this service, and they may even include it if you pay for in-home installation), or a professional-level setup disc such as Joe Kane's Digital Video Essentials (DVE).
DVE comes in standard DVD ($25) and dual-sided HD DVD/standard DVD versions ($35). If you have an HD DVD player, get the high-def version, which includes 1080p and 720p test patterns. Bundled with both versions is a set of red, green, and blue filters that you can hold over the screen to help you make color corrections--a task that can be difficult to perform accurately if you rely on your unaided eye.
The DVE disc's video tutorial leads you through basic picture setup, starting with black levels (for brightness and contrast), and then moving on to colors, overscan, and sharpness. The disc includes many additional test patterns, and an extensive manual explains how to interpret them. Be prepared to become a video expert if you get this product.
One example of the test screens included in the Digital Video Essentials disc is the Snell & Wilcox TV Test Chart, which offers test patterns for optimizing various settings on your television.
Save Your Profiles
Once you've calibrated your TV, save your picture settings in a custom picture preset, or profile, so that you can retrieve them easily when you switch between different sources. Your television may also let you save custom picture settings for each input, such as your DVR (which handles TV shows mostly), your DVD player (movies, mostly), and your Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii. Gamers may want to bump up the sharpness or make colors more vivid; again, adjust those settings when you are actually playing a game and then save them in a separate profile. For their part, sports fans tend to want smooth motion, but they may also prefer a more detailed (read: sharper) image than works best with movies and regular TV shows. Experiment.
Regardless of how you perform your calibration, taking the time to work through the picture settings will help you get the most out of your new HDTV by educating you about what makes a good picture and by forcing you to learn about how your TV operates.
Now it's time to sit back and enjoy HDTV as it's meant to be.
This story, "How to Get the Most Out of Your HDTV" was originally published by PCWorld.